If you are bothering to read this, you are privileged to be a printing and publishing business person, or a professional printer or journalist. If you are the first in your family or circle to be in this type of work, then welcome to this inclusive and enriching tradition. And if you represent the second or third generation of this rich legacy, congratulations, especially to the women amongst us.
Where do we come from? From everywhere. From across the borders of partition and returnees from Africa and elsewhere. We are the grandchildren of migrants, farmers, station masters and booksellers, soldiers and doctors, small-town newspaper owners, photographers, government engineers, detective fiction writers, members of leftist theatre groups, and freedom fighters. We are midnight’s children and the children of the emergency when our hard-won constitutional democracy was threatened.
Our community is varied and owes its legacy to the movement for independence that brought us freedom of action and expression – guaranteed by a constitutional democracy and its institutions regardless of our station or caste, religion or gender, or even ideology. After the enactment of our constitution, our community continued this movement by acting it out, by practicing the freedoms and obligations in it, to build a prosperous egalitarian nation.
Our fundamental rights are sometimes not easy to practice. Constant evidence-based publicity of both progress and hindrances is required. It is our everyday privilege to bring inequities and injustice to light. Our skills enable scientists and educators to spread knowledge, facts, and ideas in a project that combines modernity and freedom.
Our legacy is real and immediately historical as is the task of modernity in which we are engaged. Our education and skills put us in an ideal position to help the caretakers of the democratic project because nations are not static, they are always becoming more perfect as they expand the avenues of equality and creativity.
Just like other industries, we have also suffered the trauma and wounds of the pandemic, we have lost parents, siblings, children, employers, and employees. Parts of our industry have also been gravely hobbled by the lockdowns of schools and constraints on the distribution of print.
Which publisher or printer has not encountered a politician arriving at election time with a bag full of cash and a gun-wielding guard at his side for his work to be done? We know these moments will come and go as our democracy evolves, but as a printer said to me, “We are in business, no matter which politician or party is in power!”
Our community and work are damaged by the algorithms of misinformation and disinformation. Big tech uses these anti-social media algorithms to spread hate and take away the biggest part of our revenues. But our courts and competition commission are institutions for moderating new events and justice. We respect them to do the right thing.
While many of the smaller participants in our industry have closed shop – others are amongst the most resilient part of the economy, even if it has meant salary cuts and the selling of valuable assets at throwaway prices. Our collective resilience puts us in a position to heal the trauma and help in the economic recovery more than most communities because we are privileged to stand for creativity and freedom and to help citizens fight for justice.
At this time of resuscitation and recovery of the society and economy from the pandemic, let us not rush but pause because healing will not be instant or easy. Let us not merely slow down our vehicles to rubberneck at an accident on the side of the road – it is time to stop and help the wounded. The best amongst us do these things every day, silently. They do not crave recognition, merely that more of us pause to do the same.
This editorial is in acknowledgement of the numerous Indian publishing and printing businesses celebrating their 100th, 75th, and 50th anniversaries, such as Ananda Bazaar Patrika, Mathrubhumi, Vakils and Jasras.